April means autism awareness month and 2nd April is autism awareness day and it’s not something that was ever part of my life, not until around five years ago when my youngest sons teacher mentioned to us it might be worth taking him to the doctors as there was a few things that were ‘red flags’ for her. She was a lovely teacher and I will forever be grateful to her, we were lucky she was his teacher at the time. She was the schools senco at the time.
My brother and sister both have learning difficulties and growing up in a house with two elder siblings with more needs than me wasn’t something I ever thought was odd because I just grew up with it so to me it was normal that my brother and sister couldn’t read or write, obviously I knew it wasn’t ‘normal’ but to me it didn’t bother me and it was just my brother and sister.
So when this teacher said to us about going to the doctors it was a little bit like ‘oh there is a reason he is like he is’ and also ‘there isn’t anything wrong with my child’. We knew that little Jim wasn’t like his middle brother, we knew Ted wasn’t like Jeff, we both knew they were quirky but they were our sons and that was ‘normal’ to us, no it’s not normal that one of your sons sniffs people and has a mild form of Tourette’s syndrome (not to the degree of swearing but noises) and no it’s not normal that your child wants to know what we are doing every second and goes into a meltdown but your know, it’s him and we coped and wasn’t looking for a reason why my two boys were ridiculously loving but odd (you know what I mean!).
So we took little Jim to the doctors but one thing with the diagnosis route is that some kids with mild autism have this knack for acting ‘normal’ for brief periods when they think they need too and then you are back to square one. So it’s an ongoing process with little Jim, almost five years down the line for him but even though he isn’t ‘official’ we now are able to use different coping methods with him, we don’t let him ‘get away’ with things but when he has gone into a full on meltdown because we’ve gone the wrong way or we’ve said we will do something and can’t, we now know how to cope with it and have put measures in place to make him life easier (the ear defenders were a god send for the shops!).
It was until little Jim was going through it all that we began answering questions and instead of saying Jim we would say ‘that’s Ted though’ and he was very lucky that he was in secondary school and reached a point in his life we didn’t have the same doctor as little Jim and wasn’t a different diagnosis process and it took about two years (which isn’t actually that long) but we got a diagnosis for him and without it, he wouldn’t be having extra help with his GCSE’s now and he had a greater help at school.
It doesn’t effect Ted at all, when he went to secondary school myself and his father were very worried that he wouldn’t cope, he wouldn’t have any friends and his life would be very solitary (even at that point we hadn’t even thought of getting his tested but he was a very ‘on his own child’) but he is predicted A’s (or those new fandangled ones) on his exams this year, he has got a place on a media course for college and most of all his has some amazing friends (they are all very odd, just like him but they are a great mismatch of boys) so he has done amazing, wonderful things, he has been abroad on his own with his club he was in, he has been to London on a theatre trip for a few days and have done something no one ever thought he would ever do, every year since he started at secondary he got up on stage and took part in all the school musicals every year for the last four years, he didn’t this year though due to his exams but he was wonderful and grew from a hunched over little boy into a confident young man and I am very very proud of him, he hasn’t let his diagnosis stop him, in fact I think it spurned him on more.
As for little Jim, it’s an on going battle and because of the changes in my life he has found change hard but he is coping and he has bouts but on the whole he is coping but is far behind at school with his reading and writing and still with his social circle suffers but Ted did the unthinkable there is no reason Little Jim will either.
I read a poem when this all started called ‘welcome to holland’ and really does sum up how we felt back then:
Much love V xx